I don't get it. Yet another false memoir is being pulled from the shelves. At this point, after A Million Little Pieces and the J.T. Leroy disasters, how are agents and editors not checking facts?
I can understand that an editor must develop a very close relationship with a writer whose manuscript he/she wants to publish. It has to feel like a kind of betrayal, or a breach of trust, making calls to verify the accuracy of certain claims.
But how can a person not be wary after the deceit we've seen in the publishing industry recently?
I followed a link to the original New York Times profile on Seltzer/Jones from a post at Bitch, Ph.D. On reading the article, one of the first things I thought was, "This is going to suck if it's not real." While none of my personal experience would give me any insight as to the authenticity of the story, something about it just seemed fishy. Maybe it's my own cynicism. I mean, hell, the book was being published by a major publishing house, and the New York Times was running a profile. Surely they have to know things I don't, right? Surely they've covered their collective asses and gone through the vetting process, haven't they? No one wants to be the next one going on Oprah saying, "Oops, my author didn't so much mean that it was a memoir as she meant, 'very, very, very loosely based on reality.' As in, 'It's at least set on planet Earth...'"
Sad to say, the fishy smell wasn't just the lingering odor from James Frey's tuna sandwich. Margaret B. Jones just isn't real. The uplifting story of a girl who pulled herself out of a bad situation and turned things around to help other people was all a fake. She claims some parts of the story were based on her friends' lives, but that still doesn't make it a memoir.
So, when does it stop? When do we begin demanding better fact-checking before a book ever hits the shelves? It is so disappointing to invest yourself emotionally in a book, and believe that a real person out there rose above a bad situation, only to see the author brought low again by his or her own newly-exposed lies.
If there's a story you want to tell, by all means, tell it, but don't couch it as truth. Call it the novel that it is, and uplift your readers that way. Sometimes fiction is just as inspiring as fact - sometimes even moreso. It must be nice, that feeling that the world is patting you on the back, admiring you for the hardships you've overcome. But is it really worth the ire you'll receive when you're found out to be a liar? That devalues every word you wrote. It calls into question every. single. thing. It makes what might have been something good into nothing more than disappointment.